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The literary analysis of the short story “Two Kinds” written by Amy Tan makes it possible to immerse oneself in the atmosphere of a family with an oriental cultural background that is gradually adapting to the American way of life. The techniques used by the author allow understanding the feelings of the main character and her perception of the family as a complex system where requirements and responsibilities are clearly distributed.
Despite a rather simple and habitual language, Tan raises a rather topical issue of parent-child relationships and resorts to various literary devices, in particular, metaphors and connotations, in order to convey a deeper meaning through certain phrases and situations. In “Two Kinds,” Amy Tan reflects on the generation gap and emphasizes the importance of taking into account the opinions of all family members to achieve harmony and mutual understanding.
Using Connotations and Metaphors
Based on the story described by Tan, the main character has ambiguous relationships with her mother who, in turn, resorts to the classical methods of upbringing maintained in Chinese culture. References to oriental aphorisms and sayings are evidence of this approach. One of them is that there are two types of daughters – “those who are obedient and those who follow their own mind” (Tan 228).
The main character recalls this proverb more than once and seeks to destroy such a stereotype. Mother’s mentioning two kinds of daughters is the connotation that conveys a deeper meaning. Her desire to raise a child who can manifest herself in public and prove to be a genius is her goal, and obedience is one of the mechanisms of a general, broader plan for education. As a result, disagreements with her daughter lead to family conflicts and misunderstandings.
The story presented by Tan is metaphorical in general and carries not only a direct literary message but also a context. According to Fickle, such a technique is common in Asian-American works where a specific meaning is hidden behind complex images and characters (72). The metaphor of “Two Kinds” is that the example of the main character is a collective one and reflects not only a single-family but also a classical educational system as a whole.
The generation gap as one of the factors manifests itself through different ideas about goals and the ways of achieving them. As a result, the conflict reflects both the misunderstanding between the daughter and the mother and the failure of the model of upbringing based on coercion and the suppression of children’s will.
Imagery as the Author’s Tool
The images chosen by Tan serve as literary tools for conveying the context of a more general and large-scale picture. After an unsuccessful performance at a talent show, it seems to the main character that the concert hall accommodates not a few dozen people but the whole world (226). This principle of comparing the private with the general allows immersing the reader in thoughts and concerns for the girl. The public for which she performs is the indicator of her success, and the failure at the show proves that not only one educational error is fraught with shame but an upbringing system as a whole.
The struggle for the right to choose is the key message that the author seeks to convey. Judging by the ending of the story, the character managed to defend her position when arguing with her mother since she notes that “for after our struggle at the piano, she never mentioned my playing again” (228). The role of one event becomes culminating, and such imagery allows understanding that personal desires are stronger than coercion, which can manifest itself over the years. As Fickle argues, the mother-daughter conflict is typical for Tan’s creativity and is an example of the metaphorical nature of the author’s original thoughts (73). As a result, each character reveals the whole idea but not just different parts of the plot.
Such an author’s technique makes it possible to think but not see. The ending of the work is certainly associated not only with the name of the story but also with the relationships that are displayed in it. Tan writes that two separate pieces of music that the character played were part of the same song (229). An obvious analogy and connotational meaning may be traced in an effort to compare the musical piece with the girl’s lifestyle and her vision of the problem. Her mother has always wanted to make her a perfect daughter, which she failed in. As a result, two separate individuals got along in the character, and only later, she realized that they were both part of her as a whole person.
The theme of a generation gap and the importance of personal opinion are the central ideas that Amy Tan seeks to convey. As literary methods, metaphors and connotations are often used to enhance the effect of perception and reflect deeper meanings. As a result, the conflict becomes the tool aimed at reflecting the significance of personality and the failure of coercion as a basic educational method.
Fickle, Tara. “American Rules and Chinese Faces: The Games of Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club.” MELUS, vol. 39, no. 3, 2014, pp. 68-88.
Tan, Amy. “Two Kinds.” The Joy Luck Club, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1989, pp. 220-229.